Childhood is a time of innocence, a time of wonder, a time of discovery, and no amount of fame and money can make up for the loss of a childhood. Just ask Miley Cyrus, whose newest video is reported to be even worse than her recent “twerking” display at MTV’s VMA awards.
But should we be surprised? After all, the list of fallen childhood stars is as well-known as it is tragic, from Lindsey Lohan to Amanda Bynes and from Macaulay Culkin to Michael Jackson.
What do all these people have in common? Why the painful, common thread?
Some childhood stars, like Corey Feldman, have spoken out, claiming that “pedophilia is Hollywood’s biggest problem,” meaning that some (if not many?) of these kids were sexually abused by the adults they worked with. In fact, Feldman claims that it was sexual abuse at the hands of a Hollywood mogul that led to fellow childhood star Corey Haim’s death.
A less famous childhood actress named Mara Wilson concurred that many of the kids are sexually exploited, also noting in her article “
She also explained that, “They Get Used to Love and Attention, and Then Lose It,” that “They Don’t Know What Else to Do,” and that “They Can’t Escape It” (meaning being famous).
Speaking of his own experience, Corey Feldman said, “I literally was famous before I knew my own name.”
What normal child can deal with that? What normal kid can handle being “somebody special” before they have even learned basic childhood manners? What normal kid can handle constant spotlights, constant words of exaggerated praise, and constant attention when they should be playing with trucks or dolls?
And what happens when you are not valued primarily for being a son or a daughter (or a sibling or a friend) but rather for being pretty or funny or having a good voice or being a good dancer? What happens to you – the real person – that is hidden behind the stage personality?
Instead of having character built into your life, instead of having normal interaction with peers who can challenge you, instead of the innocence and wonder of it all, you are being asked to perform and become someone else – and you’re being asked to do it in an environment that causes even many adults to fall, an environment saturated with carnality and materialism and pride.
To put it succinctly, the atmosphere of Hollywood is a far cry from atmosphere of the playground.
And while it’s true that young athletes can often grow up under the spotlight, I don’t know of any sports stars today who were adored by millions for their athletic skills when they were children of just 5 or 10 years old.
Things become even more tragic when we consider the Disney stars who have gone from adorable to deplorable (or at least, from cute and innocent to blatantly seductive), not to mention drug or alcohol addiction in many cases as well. The list includes Fergie (of Black Eyed Peas fame), Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and now Miley Cyrus (among others, some of whom have had life-threatening meltdowns along the way).
Although I had never heard of Hannah Montana (not a surprising confession for a man in his 50’s), I found it interesting that one of our daughters decided that there was something just not right about Hannah, discouraging her young daughter (our granddaughter) from watching the Hannah Montana shows in years past.
Then, when teenaged Miley tweeted her support for the gay celebrity blogger Perez Hilton after his infamous exchange with Miss California, Carrie Prejean, about redefining marriage, I said to myself, “Here we go again.” And so the tattoos, the drug use, the radical new look, and now the flaunted, even debased sexuality, is no surprise at all – despite her “Christian” roots and her past, daily study of the Bible. (Somehow, I can’t see her seriously studying the Scriptures on a daily basis today.)
I’m fully aware that not all childhood stars grow up badly, and I’m also aware that many kids have lost their childhoods due to circumstances beyond their control, like war or famine or even the ravages of the inner city.
But in cases like that, their tragic surroundings often cause them to mature more quickly, while the artificial, superstar environment of Hollywood causes many kids to grow up with deep emotional problems, problems that often last a lifetime (or help to cut it short).
Perhaps we can learn some lessons from the latest casualty to childhood stardom? Perhaps we can realize that a childhood is a terrible thing to lose?
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, including Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message, and he hosts the nationally syndicated, daily talk radio show, the Line of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.
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